Strictly My Opinion

What Exactly Is Normal?

Today on Facebook a friend of mine posted a story with a headline saying ‘They look like a normal couple, but….’ etc.,

It was a wonderful story about courage and true love with a soldier who had undergone a quadruple amputation after stepping on a bomb and gone on to marry his high school sweetheart. So from the neck up, they look like Mr. and Mrs. All American Sweetheart. Blonde hair, blue eyes. Sounds like they are, too.

The story is heart-warming.

The headline is ‘annoying’. At least to me.

From the neck down, you can see artificial limbs on him. Artificial hands, artificial legs, artificial feet……and while the article is supposed to be such an uplifting, emotionally stirring portrait about true love and bravery overcoming even the most horrific tragedy – where does the writer get off saying ‘They look normal, but they’re not!’

The definition of normal, according to Merriam-Webster is: usual or ordinary, not strange

Per, it’s: conforming to the standard or the common type; usual; not abnormal; regular; natural.

Per the Urban Dictionary, and the one I like the best, it’s: A word made up by this corrupt society so they could single out and attack those who are different.

Every day we are bombarded by images of what we *should* aspire to be, to accept, to admire, and to emulate. What if we aren’t that, or don’t like that, or know things about ‘that’ not to admire because we have knowledge beyond just the image that most everyone sees? What if we try to fake our way into making others think we are that by wearing the same clothes and using the same words, and yet deep down we know we simply AREN’T that, and when we spend more and more time getting to know ‘that’ we wonder why we ever wanted to be anything like THAT in the first place?

A line from the film ‘Working Girl’ sums up the end result of what trying to dress and act like someone else usually is:

‘Sometimes I sing and dance around the house in my underwear. Doesn’t make me Madonna. Never will.’

Normal is just a word….the world is made up of billions of people.  Things that are normal in my country are offensive in another. Neither is right, neither is wrong. Normal for some is appalling for others. It doesn’t make it any less ‘normal’ to the individual.

For years I listened to how my relationship (with another man) was not ‘normal’ and that’s why society rejected it. My ‘abnormal’ relationship consisted of two consenting adults co-habitating in an apartment. We both ate three meals per day with some in-between snacks. We both washed our hair with shampoo. Socks went on one at a time, as did shoes. We occasionally argued, frequently laughed, watched movies at home because the cost of going out all the time was getting to be too much, and the talking of other patrons bothered us. We shopped for groceries, planned meals, had friends over, put up a Christmas tree, and took the trash out every week.

All pretty much a ‘departure’ from the way other couples operated…….not.

Normal is different things for different people.

I don’t shop at popular stores. I don’t eat at trendy restaurants. I don’t know who 90% of the Billboard top 100 artists are, and have no desire to. Every once in a while I catch a pop song that I kind of like. I don’t listen to the radio unless I’m with someone listening to the radio. I don’t watch Bachelor, or Dancing With The Stars, and have never been able to sit through an episode of Seinfeld. I grew up with two siblings that are adopted. I am not adopted. My parents split up in 1976 and divorced five years later after many delays. I have known from the dawn of my teens, if not before, that I am gay. I like to read more than watch television. I like to sing rather than play sports. I don’t care for lobster, nor blueberries. Asian food, even the smell of it, makes me physically ill. Headache, nausea, etc. I hate having my feet touched and never go barefoot except in the shower or swimming. Small talk gives me anxiety, but I can carry on a meaningful conversation for hours. Popular, trendy things are typically lost on me, even though I am most of the time aware of them. I cringe when I hear someone sing something like ‘I’ve gah-choo under my skin’ instead of ‘I’ve got you’, unless they are doing it purposely as a parody of some sort. I still use the word groovy, even if it’s been out of style for 40+ years. I have never read any Dean Koontz books, my favorite author is Charles Dickens, and I get ‘giddy’ finding a Jules Verne book in a used book store that I’ve not yet read at a really decent price.

That’s my normal.

The aforementioned Mr. and Mrs. All-American Sweetheart ARE normal. They are people. They have overcome terrible tragedy and loss and stayed strong in their love of one another. He walks on and reaches for things with artificial limbs. That’s his normal…that’s their normal. Just like my normal is mine; theirs is theirs. Yours is yours.

Several years ago I stopped caring about trying to fit into what others consider normal. I am only concerned with what MY normal is, and happy to see others live their normal. As long as it hurts no one else…..who cares if it’s different from the rest of the herd?


2 thoughts on “What Exactly Is Normal?

  1. I love this. I recently had this conversation (or attempted to have it) with a group of friends. And I use the term ‘friends’ loosely. I was with a group of couples who my spouse and I have dinner with every month or so. We share sitters; our kids are friends & we’re all in heterosexual marriages, range in age from 35-45 & have comfortable lives. Someone in the group used the term “normal” in a way that said to me that he defined the term as upper-middle class, married (heterosexually of course — please note my eye-rolling sarcasm here), 2.5 kids, blah blah blah. I had to stop him. “Yes, but what is really normal?” He looked at me blankly and said, “Well, you know. Normal as in normal. I don’t know how else to explain it.” And at this point he was being a bit of a smart-ass so I did my best to kindly enlighten him. It didn’t take, though other (non-white, non-male people at the table very much got what I was saying.) My husband and I continued the conversation later that evening. And for what it’s worth, he & I have disagreed on the definition of normal in the past. Anyway, I walked away from the conversation feeling misunderstood, not to mention my disgust at how condescending this guy was. I left it at “there are numerous ways to be normal.” He disagreed & we moved on. I love that you wrote this and eloquently put into words what I was feeling. Great post!

  2. Thank you. I sometimes wonder if people are just too afraid of being ‘left out’….being labeled as abnormal themselves… break free from that mentality. I have, more than once, told my kids to never try to be someone they aren’t just to fit in and make friends….be yourself and then the friends you make will be true friends who like you for you, not for who they want you to be.

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